Most Business English learners can be placed in one of three categories.
1. Pre-service learners
Pre-service learners are young adults enrolled on business-related courses or programmes. They are generally studying at tertiary education institutions (universities, further educational colleges, vocational colleges) and are generally in the 18-25 year old range.
Some of them may have limited work experience, but others may have no direct experience of the corporate world. This means they are less likely to draw on their experiences when participating in activities and tasks.
They may be attending BE classes to supplement what they are learning (voluntary or compulsory) and their main objective is to acquire English skills which will benefit them at some point in the near future.
Pre-service learners may have limited conceptual awareness of business-related topics. If they have never participated in a high-stakes negotiation, they may have no idea of what’s required in such a situation – or alternatively, they may draw on TV shows and movies.
When teaching pre-service learners, you may have to spend more time on building up your learners’ vocabulary.
2. Business Professionals
The second type of BE learner is an in-service learner, which means that they are working for companies and may have specific BE needs. Although some BE professionals are interested in acquiring general business English, others may have more specific needs related to their profession or department.
BE professionals often have limited time and specific needs. These needs can be addressed in a 1-1 training situation, but meeting learners’ needs is far more challenging in group classes. You might find yourself preparing lessons for a group of employees working in disparate fields such as HR, marketing, sales, and finance.
Another common challenge when working with BE professionals is dealing with their learning preferences and beliefs. As experienced professionals in their field, they might have strong opinions about language learning which may be very different to your own.
3. BE Exam Candidates
The final type of BE learner is somebody who wants to prepare for a BE exam, such as Cambridge Business Exams or Linguaskill. Learners will have their own reasons for taking the test and their motivation may be intrinsic or extrinsic.
BE learners are generally motivated and planning lessons does not have to be difficult if exam preparation materials are available. The main challenge will be managing expectations as some learners may not be able to accurately assess their current levels.